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Politics Trudeau says he would not support Harper government

Progressive Conservative leader Stephen Harper, left, greets Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, right, prior to the beginning of the Globe and Mail Leaders Debate in Calgary, Alberta Sept.17, 2015.

MIKE STURK/REUTERS

Though he has "every bit of confidence" the Liberals will win on Oct. 19, Justin Trudeau says there is absolutely no way, no how, his party would support a Stephen Harper-led Conservative minority government.

"There are no circumstances" under which the Liberals would prop up Harper should the Tories emerge with only a narrow plurality of seats, Trudeau said Tuesday in his strongest statements to date on the possibility of a Tory minority.

"I have spent my entire political career fighting against Mr. Harper's narrow and meaner vision of what Canada can be and what the government should do," he said after an arts-and-culture announcement in Montreal.

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"There are no circumstances in which I would support Stephen Harper to continue being prime minister of this country."

Trudeau, has, however, supported the Harper government in the past on several pieces of legislation, including the controversial Bill C-51, which gives new powers to Canada's security services and makes it easier for government departments to share the private information of Canadians.

Since the start of the 11-week election campaign in early August, the polls have suggested that no party is in clear majority territory and that the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives are locked in a tight, three-way race.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has long maintained that his goal is to ensure Harper doesn't win government. He has also said he would be willing to work with the Liberals to ensure that happens.

Although he has said he would be "willing to work with others," Trudeau has already rejected the notion of any formal coalitions, including with the NDP.

On Tuesday, he sidestepped the question of whether he would support a NDP minority.

"Canada has had minority governments before," he said. "And parliamentarians elected by Canadians have always been able to ensure that Parliament functions."

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Canadians came close to being governed by a coalition in the recent past.

After the 2008 election, the Harper government was almost toppled by an NDP-Liberal coalition with the support of the Bloc Quebecois.

The deal fell apart after Harper prorogued Parliament. When it resumed, new Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff refused to take part in any power-sharing deal with the New Democrats, allowing Harper to remain as prime minister.

Earlier Tuesday, at an event with local candidates and supporters, Trudeau said the Liberals would provide $380 million in additional funding for the arts and undo Conservative funding cuts to the CBC.

Trudeau said he would reverse the $115 million in annual cuts the Conservative government made to the national broadcaster and would top up funding for CBC/Radio-Canada by an additional $35 million a year.

He also said he would double the annual funding for the Canada Council of the Arts to $360 million from $180 million.

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Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board would together get an additional $25 million a year, he said.

Trudeau added he would restore funding cut by Harper for two programs that promoted Canada's cultural and artistic groups and entrepreneurs internationally.

The Liberals saved their arts announcement for Quebec, a province with strong ties to its artistic communities and whose artists have been strongly critical of the Conservative government.

Harper's opponents have often attacked him for lacking sensitivity towards Canada's cultural communities and for focusing funding on projects promoting Canada's military history.

He was pilloried during the 2008 election campaign — particularly in Quebec — when he said "ordinary working people" don't care about seeing "a bunch of people at, you know, (at) a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers."

Trudeau on Tuesday seized on the negative perception the Harper government has in the province regarding arts and culture funding.

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"For ten years that the Conservatives have been in power they've been fierce opponents to the cultural industry in this country," Trudeau said.

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